Christianity 201

July 31, 2017

A Gentle Spirit; An Honest Spirit

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Today we’re paying a return visit to Partners in Hope Today, a website we last connected with over four years ago. The devotionals posted there — in print and in audio — are especially focused for readers who are in a recovery program.  We offer you two shorter readings today, but click the titles for each in order to see the graphic images or link to the audio versions.

The Beauty of a Quiet and Gentle Spirit

While it is important to show gentleness towards those we are in contact with, it’s also essential that we learn how to treat ourselves with gentleness.  That doesn’t mean that we look for a “softer gentler way” that avoids issues and allows us to continue in whatever is convenient and comfortable, but is ultimately harmful.  It does mean that we seek gentleness everywhere we find ourselves.

God invites us to a lifestyle of gentleness where we respect truth, respect the dignity of everyone including ourselves, and delight in the joy and wonder of each new day.  Surround me with your tender mercies so I may live, for your instructions are my delight.  (Psalm 119:77 NLT)

Gentleness helps us admit that we are struggling and it’s okay to seek help.  He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.  (Psalm 103:4 NLT)

Gentleness is protected by the setting of safe boundaries in relationships.  Lord, don’t hold back your tender mercies from me. Let your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me.  (Psalm 40:11 NLT)

Gentleness is often experienced in our spirit when we take the time to slow down and notice life around us – a flower on a summer day; a baby in a stroller; the aroma of food; the beautiful colours in the sky as the sun goes down.  God has made everything beautiful for its own time. The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. (Ecclesiastes 3:11, Psalm 19:1 NLT)

Gentleness in us flows and grows as we sit quietly and have a conversation with God.  Just reading the Bible often brings peace and gentleness to our souls and when we speak to God in response to what He is conveying to us in His Word, a gentleness of spirit seems to wrap itself around our hearts.  Let my teaching fall on you like rain; let my speech settle like dew. Let my words fall like rain on tender grass, like gentle showers on young plants.  (Deuteronomy 32:2 NLT)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, help me to live in the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit that comes from within and which is precious in Your sight.  AMEN  

Freedom Through Telling the Truth

“We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

How hard would it be to trust such a power if we thought he was a liar?  How could we even think about turning our will and our life over to his care?  Fortunately, one of our Heavenly Father’s basic characteristics is truth.  In fact, it is impossible for God to lie.  We can completely depend on every word God says and every promise He gives us.

It is impossible for God to lie.  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. God tells the truth, even if everyone else is a liar. (Hebrews 6:18, John 14:6 NLT, Romans 3:4 CEV)

God always speaks truth, even difficult truths, but does it with such kindness and love that it draws our heart closer to Him rather than driving us away from Him.  There’s a story in the Bible in John 4 that tells about Jesus’ encounter with a woman who was hiding the truth.  Jesus engaged her in conversation and revealed the complete truth about her life’s circumstances, which weren’t all that great.  Amazingly, in just a few minutes that woman, who had lived in shame in her community for years because of her circumstances, ran back to town and invited everyone to come and hear Jesus because He had revealed everything that had happened to her:  Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?  (John 4:29 NLT)

When God, who loves us unconditionally, speaks truth to us, life and hope and a desire for healing fills our hearts.  God’s wants to reveal the deception and lies we’ve been told by society and those we’ve lived under, because lies always harm and drag us down.  God wants to set us free from the bondage of lying, lift us up, and draw us closer to Himself.

What sorrow for those who drag their sins behind them with ropes made of lies, who drag wickedness behind them like a cart! (Isaiah 5:18 NLT)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for always speaking the truth in love to me.  Help me to live in the freedom of always speaking truth to you, to myself, and to others.  AMEN

June 7, 2017

Doctrine and Behavior

Today we’re paying a return visit to GotQuestions.org and in particular an article which uses two rather large words, one of which you’ve seen and the other which may be new to you. Click the title to read at source and then click on “What’s New” to see other articles of interest.

What is orthopraxy/orthopraxis?

Orthopraxy is a compound Greek word. The first word in the compound is ortho, which is quite familiar to most of us today. Is means “right, correct, or straight.” An orthodontist is a dentist who can “straighten” or correct teeth. An orthopedist is a doctor who works with deformities or misalignments of the skeletal system, often the spine, with the hope of being able to correct them. Praxis, the second word of the compound, sounds similar to the English equivalent—practice. Orthopraxy or orthopraxis is simply “correct practice” or “correct behavior.”

Orthopraxy is often seen in distinction from orthodoxy, which is “correct teaching” or “correct doctrine.” If someone is orthodox, it means that he believes correctly. Orthodoxy and orthopraxy are often seen to be on opposite ends of a spectrum. Some forms of Christianity seem to place more emphasis on correct doctrine. Other forms of Christianity seem to care little for doctrine but place heavy emphasis on proper deeds. Orthopraxis can also refer to the correct performance of required rituals, which is important in some expressions of Christianity as well as in other religions. In many religions, it matters little what one believes as long as the correct works and rituals are performed.

Evangelical Protestantism emphasizes correct doctrine, and critics sometimes caricature the evangelical position as teaching that, as long as you believe the right things, it doesn’t matter what you do. That is not a genuine evangelical position, and neither is it a biblical understanding of the relationship between orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

According to the Bible, correct doctrine will lead to correct behavior, but the doctrine comes first. In Romans, Paul spends the first eleven chapters explaining correct doctrine. In Romans 12:1 he transitions to correct practice: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” The word therefore means that the instructions that follow are based upon the doctrine that has just been explained.

In Ephesians we see the same pattern. Ephesians 1–3 explain correct doctrine, and chapters 4–6 explain correct practice. Once again, Ephesians 4:1 makes the transition: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” In the first 3 chapters, Paul has explained the calling of the Christian in doctrinal terms, and now he calls his readers to live in light of that doctrine.

In Titus 3:8 Paul pulls orthodoxy and orthopraxy together in one verse: “I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God [orthodoxy] may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good [orthopraxy]. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” He does the same thing in Ephesians 2. Verses 8–9 emphasize the orthodox teaching that we are saved by grace through faith apart from good works: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Verse 10 completes the thought: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Once again, correct belief comes first, and out of that flow correct works. We are saved apart from works; God’s purpose in saving us is that we do good works.

In fact, the relationship between orthodoxy and orthopraxy is so strong that, if a person does not perform good works, it is doubtful that he believes the right things. First John 2:3–6 explains, “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”

Some religions and some forms of Christianity emphasize orthopraxy with little regard for orthodoxy, but this is not the biblical pattern. Likewise, some forms of Christianity emphasize orthodoxy with little regard for orthopraxy. This too is unbiblical. The biblical model is that we must embrace correct doctrine (orthodoxy), and this must be more than mere intellectual assent to truth. Biblical faith involves trust and personal commitment. When a person goes beyond affirming the fact that Christ is the “Savior of the world” to trusting Christ as “my Savior from my sins,” then he or she is born again. The indwelling Spirit of God begins to change that person from within. Correct behavior (orthopraxy) will result from that inner work.

We cannot see a person’s heart, but the link between orthopraxy and orthodoxy is so strong that, if a person’s practice is not correct, we can infer that his faith is not truly orthodox. “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:14–19). Even demons have an orthodox theology, but they are not saved!

In summary, both orthodoxy and orthopraxy are important. If any form of Christianity emphasizes one to the exclusion or diminishing of the other, it is unbiblical. Good deeds are a necessary and normal part of the Christian life; however, they are unable to make one righteous before God. Justification is only possible by faith in the Savior whose substitutionary, sacrificial death paid the penalty for our sins and provided us with the righteousness that we need to make us acceptable to God.

Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns

May 19, 2017

The Bible Project: An Overview of the Book of Titus

We did this a year ago and decided it was time to revisit The Bible Project a video series which helps those of us who think more visually. As we said last year, we know you come here daily for a teaching or inspirational writing that is written out in words, and some devotional websites can easily get lazy and just post videos or link to audio podcasts. But we felt this was a worthy exception. I hope you agree.

Learn more at TheBibleProject.com

May 13, 2017

Jesus Builds His Core Team

Sometimes I have been guilty of using terminology incorrectly. I know in my younger days this was true with disciples versus apostles. To be clear, Jesus chose 12 apostles, but had many disciples. In Luke 6 we see a turning point where he, to use a modern church term, chooses his board members. …Actually, that may not be a great analogy; make that Jesus chooses his ministry staff.

12 During that time, Jesus went out to the mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night long. 13 At daybreak, he called together his disciples. He chose twelve of them whom he called apostles

When did this take place in the overall chronology? Meyers N.T. Commentary states:

According to Matthew, the choice of the Twelve had not yet occurred before the Sermon on the Mount; nevertheless it is implied in Matthew, not, indeed, sooner than at Luke 10:1 [the sending out of the 72] but after the call of Matthew himself. Luke in substance follows Mark in what concerns the choice of the apostles. But he here assigns to the Sermon on the Mount—which Mark has not got at all—a position different from that in Matthew, following a tradition which attached itself to the locality of the choice of the apostles (τὸ ὄρος) as readily as to the description and the contents of the sermon.

The important takeaway from the passage is not chronology, however. The thing we’re meant to see with greatest clarity is that Jesus made the decision after much prayer. At Heartlight we read:

Few events were more important in Jesus’ ministry than his selection of apostles. How would Jesus select 12 from the mob that followed him? These men would have to change the world. Could he actually find 12 that could do that? Jesus knew what was in the hearts of people. Would anyone be able to stand up to the challenges that he would have to face as one of Jesus’ chosen 12? Jesus withdrew to the mountains to be alone with God and pray as he faced this momentous decision. He didn’t choose 12 and then ask God to bless his choice. No, he spent the night in prayer before he chose the 12. When faced with decisions, whether they appear important or not, we need to follow the example of our Lord!

At Redeeming God there is an excellent article — also on audio — on this passage. We can’t reproduce it all here, but I want to share some of it; click here to read it all (including a biography of each one).

We often think of the twelve apostles as the only disciples Jesus had. But that is simply not true. He had hundreds, if not thousands of other disciples. Out of them, He chose twelve to pour most of His time, energy and attention into. The twelve are named apostles, which means “sent ones.” The question though, is why did He pick twelve, and why these twelve? At that time, when a teacher wanted to focus his time and energy on a few specially selected students, the teacher would pick only one or two, at the most three students to train. If you have ever done any serious discipling, you know that adequately teaching and training even one person is almost a full time task. But Jesus picks twelve! Why twelve?

A. Rulers

The main reason is probably because Jesus was picking men to rule in His kingdom. He was, in a way, inaugurating a new Israel in Himself. Originally, the twelve tribes of Israel were to rule over the nations, and they will again one day, but with the twelve apostles ruling over the twelve tribes (Matt. 19:28). Before that happens, Jesus has something new to establish – the church. And the apostles will be the ones to help establish it. When Jesus picks twelve, he was indicating to them and everyone else, that these were the ones who would help Him rule when He came into His kingdom. They represented a whole new Israel.

This would be a great encouragement to them when they faced trials and tribulations later in life. It can be a great encouragement to you also. If you are a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, you also will rule. You cannot be an apostle, but you can be a disciple, and many passages in the Bible tell us that Jesus Christ is calling you to be His disciple. If you respond and follow Him, you will later be given the right to rule with him (Luke 19:11-27). Not to the same level as the apostles, but still in a very special and significant way. By picking twelve, Jesus was reminding the apostles that if they followed Him faithfully, they would rule and reign with Him in His Kingdom. We need to be reminded that if we follow Him faithfully, we too will rule and reign with Him in His Kingdom. There is great motivation and incentive in that Biblical truth.

You say, “Yeah, but I’m not disciple quality. Jesus wouldn’t pick me.” Guess what? These twelve Jesus picked weren’t quality either. We sometimes elevate them and put them on pedestals, but they were human just like us.

B. Ordinary Men

They were perfectly ordinary in every way. Not one was known for being scholarly or well trained in the Bible. Not one was a great speaker, writer or theologian. None of them had outstanding talents or abilities. To the contrary, they were all too prone to mistakes, misstatements, wrong attitudes, failures of faith, and bitter resentment toward others. Even the leader of the group, Peter, was forever sticking his foot in his mouth. In fact, at times, Jesus is amazed at how slow they are to learn and how spiritually dense they are (Luke 24:25).

Furthermore, we see from them that God loves variety. There is not one perfect mold that all Christians must fit into. Some of them were fishermen. Two of them, one a tax collector and the other a religious zealot, under any other circumstance, would have been trying to kill one another. Some of them were brothers to one another. Some of them were married, some single. Some were probably craftsmen and tradesmen, or maybe farmers. Don’t ever think that you don’t qualify to be a disciple of Christ. If these men qualify, you qualify. Though these men may not amount to much in the eyes of the world, they are exactly what God is looking for…

…God’s way of doing things is not man’s way. According to 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, God chooses the humble, the lowly, the weak and the meek. He doesn’t choose the strong and the talented, the powerful and the rich. He chooses those who would never be chosen so that when He works powerfully through them, everybody knows that only God could do such things. The people we would pick are not the ones God picks. If you feel like you are not qualified to be a follower of Jesus, then you are just right. If you feel, however, that you are just what God needs, then you may have some things to learn before God can start using you…

So Christ picked these twelve to show that He was choosing some rulers for His kingdom, and He also picked these twelve to show us that we don’t have to have great training or popularity to be one of His disciples.

C. Students

What is most curious about Christ’s choice is that at first, it seemed these apostles had nothing to do but follow Jesus around and listen to His teachings. They thought they were going to be put to some grand task, and given some great responsibility, but all they did was sit around, go to parties, watch Jesus interact with other people, and listen to Him teach.

Similarly, when you first become a follower of Jesus Christ, it may seem that God is giving you nothing significant to do. It may seem that Jesus has called you to be his disciple, but then He forgot about you, or doesn’t have any true purpose for you to fulfill. But this is because, frequently, God’s first will for your life is to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn. Before you can live like Jesus, you must learn from Jesus. Before you can do His will, you must know His will. If it seems like you are not being used by God, then you should take the opportunity to patiently learn from God. There is nothing wrong with sitting and learning, as long as you are willing and ready to go when Jesus says, “Go!” In fact, he will not send you, until you have learned what He wants you to know.

Even once they were trained, they were not perfect. After their training was complete, the first night on their own, they all deserted, betrayed and denied Jesus Christ. Afterwards, some of them even tried to go back to their original occupation of fishing, but they failed at that too…until Jesus showed up and got them back on course (John 21). To be a disciple means first and foremost to be a learner. A lot of people think that following Christ is all about doing what Christ would do. That is why we had that fad a few years back where everyone bracelets and T-shirts that said “What Would Jesus Do?”

The problem is that we cannot do what Jesus would do, unless we first become like Jesus, and we cannot become like Jesus until we know Jesus. Not “know” Jesus as in “I know about Jesus” but know Jesus as in “I know Him as if he were my best friend.” And the only way you can become the best friend of Jesus is by spending lots of time with Him. That’s what he wants from you. He doesn’t want you to do great things for Him. He wants to do great things for you and through you. But the only way that is going to happen is if you get to know Jesus. Listen to Him teach. Ask Him questions. Watch how He deals with people. Let Him encourage you, lovingly correct you, and patiently instruct you. As you go through this process, He will eventually give you an assignment. First a small one, then larger and larger until you will be amazed at the things God is doing through you. But it all begins with sitting at His feet and learning…

…continue reading here

 

May 12, 2017

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

We’ve linked to The Christian Examiner at Thinking Out Loud before, but never here at C201. We noted this devotional article and thought we would share it here. Better yet, read this at source — click the title below — and then navigate to their news pages for a Christian perspective on current events. Bookmark the site for frequent reference.

Wait Is a Four-Letter Word

by Elizabeth Laing Thompson

Wait is a four-letter word. Coincidence? I think not.

We’re all waiting on something from God: true love or a baby, a job or a cure. And the period between answers can feel like a place where dreams—and faith—go to die.

I have often thought to myself, The worst part of waiting is the uncertainty. I wish God would just give me a yes or no so I can move on with life.

Have you ever thought something like this:
  • If I knew I wasn’t going to find true love, maybe I could get busy building a fulfilling life as a single person.
  • If I knew I wasn’t going to have the career breakthrough I’ve longed for, maybe I could devote my time and energy to other things.

We tell ourselves the problem is the not knowing. Dealing with uncertainty. We tell ourselves we wouldn’t mind waiting so much if God just told us, “You’re going to get what you want in the end, but buckle up for a long ride—it’s going to take awhile.”

But who am I kidding? When I’m waiting, I want more than just a yes or no from God. It’s not enough to know if, I want to know when. I want a timeline. A fat red circle on the calendar.

I’m going to wait two years and nine months before I get pregnant, You say? Okay. I don’t love that timeline, but I can work with it. I’ll do the Pinterest thing and make a cute countdown calendar, and I’ll find a way to be happy the whole time I’m waiting.

But life doesn’t work that way, God doesn’t work that way. It is in the not knowing that God works on our heart, our faith, our character. It is in the not knowing that 2 Peter 1 and James 1 collide:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:5–8

Christians are meant to grow—to become godlier, more loving, more self-controlled, better at persevering—so we don’t stagnate spiritually. Spiritual growth doesn’t happen automatically, accidentally, or overnight. Spiritual growth is a lifetime process we never outgrow. It takes conscious effort—every effort, in fact. The perfectionist in me finds this both overwhelming and comforting—overwhelming because I want to be done growing (meaning perfect) yesterday; comforting because I realize I’m not supposed to be done growing yet. Character is built slowly: step-by-step, choice by choice, even mistake by mistake, one strength building on another over time. Smack in the middle of this character-building process we find the trait we desperately need when we are waiting: perseverance. Now let’s pair this passage with what James says about perseverance:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2–4

Did you catch that last phrase—”let perseverance finish its work”—as in it’s up to us to allow that work to happen so we can grow? As in trials produce perseverance, and perseverance can lead to spiritual maturity, but we have to let it happen, not fight the process? If we let Him, God can use our waiting journeys to shape us, to make us into the people He created us to be.

Knowing our weakness, knowing our need, God offers us many stories of godly people who have wrestled with waiting with varying success. People like Sarah, who received a definitive promise from God but then crumbled in the face of bleak fact: seventy-five-year-old women just don’t have babies. The good news for those of us (all of us) who wait imperfectly? Many of our fellow waiters in the Bible got second chances. (Remember Sarah’s miracle baby, Isaac?) And third and fourth and fifth chances, and on and on goes the grace of God.

Waiting seasons aren’t fun, but they are opportunities. Through our waiting seasons—yes, through the not knowing—we can build character one step at a time. Through our waiting seasons, perseverance can gradually “finish” its never-ending work in us. As waiting does its thing, and God does His, we get the chance to become our best selves, the people God designed us to be. So what are we waiting for? Let’s get started.

March 31, 2017

Before April 1st: What the Bible Says About Fools

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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With people reading here from around the world, I don’t know how common “April Fools Day” is where you live, but I thought it would be a good time to see what scriptures might come up in a search for fool, fools, foolish, etc.

As I’m sure you can imagine, many such verses come from the book of Proverbs. This is a book about wisdom and the wise person is clearly the opposite of a fool. I found a number of these verses listed at OpenBible.info. A number of verses also appear at GodVine.

The best source however turned out to be BibleReasons.com. This was a new site to me, but one I felt was the best because the verses were categorized, and they also provided an introduction. As often happens with solid, conservative Christian websites, all of the quotations are from the King James. I decided to go ahead with this anyway, I hope that “201” readers here can navigate the archaic language.

Not wanting to reblog their entire contents on this topic, I’ve done some selecting, so I encourage you to click the title below to read in full.

25 Bible verses about fools

A fool is someone who is unwise, lacks sense, and lacks judgement. Fools don’t want to learn the truth. They laugh at the truth and turn their eyes away from the truth. Fools are wise in their own eyes failing to take in wisdom and advice, which will be their downfall. They suppress the truth by their unrighteousness.

They have wickedness in their hearts, they are lazy, proud, they slander others, and live in repeat foolishness. Living in sin is fun for a fool.

It’s not wise to desire their company because they will lead you down a dark path. Fools rush into danger without wise preparation and thinking about the consequences.

Scripture keeps people from being foolish, but sadly fools despise the Word of God…

Teaching them

1. Proverbs 18:2-3 Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions. Doing wrong leads to disgrace, and scandalous behavior brings contempt.

2. Proverbs 1:5-7 Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let those with understanding receive guidance by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables, the words of the wise and their riddles. Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

The mouth of a fool.

4. Proverbs 10:18-19 He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool. In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.

6. Proverbs 18:13 Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.

They continue in their foolishness.

10. Proverbs 26:11 As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.

Arguing with them

11. Proverbs 29:8-9 Mockers can get a whole town agitated, but the wise will calm anger. If a wise person takes a fool to court, there will be ranting and ridicule but no satisfaction.

12. Proverbs 26:4-5 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.

Trusting them

13. Proverbs 26:6-7 Trusting a fool to convey a message is like cutting off one’s feet or drinking poison! A proverb in the mouth of a fool is as useless as a paralyzed leg.

14. Luke 6:39 Then Jesus gave the following illustration: “Can one blind person lead another? Won’t they both fall into a ditch?

The difference between an intelligent man and a fool. 

16. Proverbs 15:21 Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom: but a man of understanding walketh uprightly.

17. Proverbs 14:8-10 The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception. Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright.

Fools say there is no God.

20. Psalm 53:1 1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.

21. Psalm 74:18 Remember this, O LORD, that the enemy has reviled, And a foolish people has spurned Your name.

Can a Christian call someone a fool? This verse is speaking of unrighteous anger, which is a sin, but righteous anger is not a sin.

22. Matthew 5:22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.


Again, there are 25 verses in the full article, it’s easy to see by the numbers here we condensed this. Click the title to read the full article and bookmark the site next time you want to pursue a particular topic.

That would be wise thing to do!


Related post from April 1, 2014: A Day Devoted to Lies.

January 11, 2017

Becoming a Person Given to Hospitality

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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NLT Genesis 19:1 That evening the two angels came to the entrance of the city of Sodom. Lot was sitting there, and when he saw them, he stood up to meet them. Then he welcomed them and bowed with his face to the ground. 2 “My lords,” he said, “come to my home to wash your feet, and be my guests for the night. You may then get up early in the morning and be on your way again.”

“Oh no,” they replied. “We’ll just spend the night out here in the city square.”

3 But Lot insisted, so at last they went home with him. Lot prepared a feast for them, complete with fresh bread made without yeast, and they ate

I’ll grant you the above story doesn’t end well, but it was referred to by today’s writer, so I’ve included it. Today we’re paying a return visit to the website Bible Universe. In addition to the article — click the link below to read at site — I’ve also included a link to some additional resources they offer at the end of today’s reading.

Importance of Hospitality

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2

In the twilight two strangers drew near to the city gate. They were apparently travelers coming in to tarry for the night. None could discern in those humble wayfarers the mighty heralds of divine judgment, and little dreamed the gay, careless multitude that in their treatment of these heavenly messengers that very night they would reach the climax of the guilt which doomed their proud city. But there was one man who manifested kindly attention toward the strangers and invited them to his home.

Lot did not know their true character, but politeness and hospitality were habitual with him; they were a part of his religion–lessons that he had learned from the example of Abraham. Had he not cultivated a spirit of courtesy, he might have been left to perish with the rest of Sodom. Many a household, in closing its doors against a stranger, has shut out God’s messenger, who would have brought blessing and hope and peace.

Every act of life, however small, has its bearing for good or for evil. Faithfulness or neglect in what are apparently the smallest duties may open the door for life’s richest blessings or its greatest calamities. It is little things that test the character. It is the unpretending acts of daily self-denial, performed with a cheerful, willing heart, that God smiles upon. We are not to live for self, but for others. And it is only by self-forgetfulness, by cherishing a loving, helpful spirit, that we can make our life a blessing. The little attentions, the small, simple courtesies, go far to make up the sum of life’s happiness, and the neglect of these constitutes no small share of human wretchedness.

Seeing the abuse to which strangers were exposed in Sodom, Lot made it one of his duties to guard them at their entrance, by offering them entertainment at his own house. He was sitting at the gate as the travelers approached, and upon observing them, he rose from his place to meet them, and bowing courteously, said, “Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night.” They seemed to decline his hospitality, saying, “Nay; but we will abide in the street.”

Their object in this answer was twofold–to test the sincerity of Lot and also to appear ignorant of the character of the men of Sodom, as if they supposed it safe to remain in the street at night. Their answer made Lot the more determined not to leave them to the mercy of the rabble. He pressed his invitation until they yielded, and accompanied him to his house.


Earlier I mentioned there would be a bonus link today to some other resources at Bible Universe. First of all some general interest ones:

  • Keys to Bible Symbols — a great help if you’re wanting to follow the thread of various “types” used in scripture or in terms of literary imagery.
  • Keys to Bible Numbers — similar to the above, but dealing with the meaning of different numbers.

Also, do you know a Christian who is also a medical doctor? Bible Universe (dot com) recently ran a series of three short devotionals to encourage people in that profession.

01/03/2017

Encouragement for the Christian Physician #3

01/02/2017

Encouragement for the Christian Physician #2

01/01/2017

Encouragement for the Christian Physician #1

October 10, 2016

Why Do You Feel You Must Respond?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Today we pay a return visit to the blog of Neal Pollard who is in pastoral ministry in Colorado. Click the title to read at source; there’s a lot of great material waiting for you at his site.

Answering Our Accusers

There was a time when it was possible to engage in respectful, loving dialogue with brothers and sisters we disagreed with or had a problem with. Even if we felt passionately, we could discuss it civilly and retain or even strengthen our relationship with our “disputant.” We should be thankful that there are still many who are open to such a biblical methodology.  However, there are some who seem intent only on winning the day, seizing some perceived moral or doctrinal high ground, or championing what appears to be a self-serving cause. Some of these same individuals are rife with rancorous rhetoric, baiting or calling out those they seem to see as enemies or the guilty. When we are called out, are we scripturally obligated to answer them or defend ourselves? Or, as the late Wendell Winkler put it, are we simply giving them a platform to spread their extreme views?

For the minority of brethren whose minds are made up, no matter what, or who seem eager to tangle, the question is whether or not it is necessary or helpful to answer their accusations.  I realize there were circumstances like 2 Corinthians where Paul, who was innocent, wrote by inspiration to defend himself. But I also remember when the Lord stood before Herod, Pilate and the Jews and “answered…nothing” (Mat. 27:12; Mark 15:3,5; Luke 23:9; Isa. 53:7). While none of us are nearly so good as our Lord, He is the example we are to strive to follow (1 Pet. 2:21). Before answering an accuser, it is wise to determine the following:

  • What is my motivation for answering? Is it to save face for myself? Is it to somehow punish or put my accusers in their place? Is it to prove I’m right and they are wrong? Pride, anger, and hurt feelings are not proper motivations for answering an accuser.
  • What do I hope to accomplish by answering? Will I change their minds or those to whom they pander? Are they actually desirous of an answer? Will I rescue my reputation or harm it by going to their level?
  • What are the ethics of my accusers? Is this a hobby or obsession of theirs (i.e., do they have a pattern and history of doing this with others)? Do they have the facts straight? Do they assert things as facts that are quantifiably wrong? If so, will they deal honestly with the answers I give them or twist them to suit their own agenda?

Here is the judgment call we have to make. Solomon gives divergent advice in Proverbs 26 when he says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes” (4-5). Sometimes you do, and sometimes you don’t.  Perhaps the Lord has placed that ball in our court, trusting us to use our judgment. If my Lord’s name and cause is threatened, I will be ready to jump to His defense. If someone tries to do that with my name, I should be more careful and if this is a means to allow the common sense observer to look at both of our works and discern each of our characters, may I have the patience and maturity to see it as an opportunity to fulfill Matthew 5:38-48. We don’t have to attend every fight people goad us to join.

August 25, 2016

Do You Have a Heart for God?

1 Samuel 13:1–14 NLT

Continued War with Philistia

Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned for forty-two years.

Saul selected 3,000 special troops from the army of Israel and sent the rest of the men home. He took 2,000 of the chosen men with him to Micmash and the hill country of Bethel. The other 1,000 went with Saul’s son Jonathan to Gibeah in the land of Benjamin.

 Soon after this, Jonathan attacked and defeated the garrison of Philistines at Geba. The news spread quickly among the Philistines. So Saul blew the ram’s horn throughout the land, saying, “Hebrews, hear this! Rise up in revolt!”  All Israel heard the news that Saul had destroyed the Philistine garrison at Geba and that the Philistines now hated the Israelites more than ever. So the entire Israelite army was summoned to join Saul at Gilgal.

The Philistines mustered a mighty army of 3,000* chariots, 6,000 charioteers, and as many warriors as the grains of sand on the seashore! They camped at Micmash east of Beth-aven.   The men of Israel saw what a tight spot they were in; and because they were hard pressed by the enemy, they tried to hide in caves, thickets, rocks, holes, and cisterns.  Some of them crossed the Jordan River and escaped into the land of Gad and Gilead.

Saul’s Disobedience and Samuel’s Rebuke

Meanwhile, Saul stayed at Gilgal, and his men were trembling with fear.   Saul waited there seven days for Samuel, as Samuel had instructed him earlier, but Samuel still didn’t come. Saul realized that his troops were rapidly slipping away.  So he demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!” And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself.

Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet and welcome him,   but Samuel said, “What is this you have done?”

Saul replied, “I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle.   So I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.”

“How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.   But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

This is an article from earlier in the year by Chuck Swindoll which came recommended. We’ve included the full text of the scripture because the reading itself is shorter. If you have a devotional you want to recommend be sure to contact us. Click the title below to read at source.

Chuck SwindollHow’s Your Heart?

When God scans the earth for potential leaders, He is not on a search for angels in the flesh. He is certainly not looking for perfect people, since there are none. He is searching for men and women like you and me, mere people made up of flesh, bone, and blood. But He is also looking for certain qualities in those people, like the qualities He found in David.

The first quality God saw in David was a heart for God. “The Lord has sought out . . . a man after His own heart.” What does it mean to be a person after God’s own heart? Seems to me, it means that you are a person whose life is in harmony with the Lord. What is important to Him is important to you. What burdens Him burdens you. When He says, “Go to the right,” you go to the right. When He says, “Stop that in your life,” you stop it. When He says, “This is something I want you to change,” you come to terms with it because you have a heart for God. That’s bottom-line biblical Christianity.

When you are deeply spiritual, you have a heart that is sensitive to the things of God. A parallel verse in 2 Chronicles confirms this: “For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (2 Chronicles 16:9, emphasis added).

What is God looking for? He is looking for men and women whose hearts are completely His—completely. That means there are no locked closets. Nothing’s been swept under the rugs. That means that when you do wrong, you admit it and immediately come to terms with it. You’re grieved over wrong. You’re concerned about those things that displease your heavenly Father. You long to please Him in your actions. You care about the motives behind your actions. That’s having a heart for God, and that’s the first quality David had. Do you have a heart for God?

God is looking for men and women whose hearts are completely His—completely.

— Charles R. Swindoll

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005).

If you would like a shorter devotion, perhaps to start the day or end the day, consider signing up for Chuck Swindoll at Insight for Living. They are currently in the book of Esther. To learn more, click this link.

 

August 12, 2016

3 Types of Righteousness

Today, we’re paying a return visit to Wade Burleson at Istoria Ministries. Click the title below to read at source.

Imputed, Imparted, and Imbedded Righteousness

Righteousness is a big, important word that  conveys one of the life’s most vital concepts.

The Bible declares that God is righteous.  “O LORD, God of Israel, You are righteous!” (Ezra 9:15). “The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion” (Psalms 116:5). The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made” (Psalms 145:17).

The Hebrew word translated righteousness has as its root the meaning of “right” or “straight.” The Old English word used to translate the Hebrew word was “oughtness.” God is right. God is straight. God is as He ought to be.

To be righteous is to be right. It is to be a person who is not crooked in character or conduct. However, because of sin in all of us, there is “no one righteous, no not one.” (Romans 3:10). Nobody is as we ought to be. We are not righteous in character, and we are not holy in conduct. Holiness is but the outward expression of internal righteousness, and without holiness “no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrew 12:14).

How then, does a sinner become righteous in the eyes of God?

Imputed Righteousness

The word “impute” means to “credit to an account” of another. It is an accounting term. When God imputes righteousness, it means that God credits “righteousness” to the account of a sinner. How can I be seen by God as “righteous” when both God and I know that that I’m a sinner.

“This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:22).

God credits me with perfect righteousness when I believe in Christ. My trust (faith) is credited as righteousness to me” (Romans 4:22).

“I am found in Christ, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” (Philippians 3:9).

“For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17).

You are declared righteous by God through the gift of His righteousness given to all those with faith in Christ.

Imparted Righteousness

“Imparted righteousness” identifies the internal work of God when He regenerates those who trust in Christ. Believers in Christ become “partakers of the divine nature” (cf. 2 Peter 1:4). It is this principle of righteousness imparted to men in regeneration which is ever in conflict with the old Adamic nature.

It is critical, however, to maintain the distinction between the “imputed righteousness” of Christ which is the basis for justification and this “imparted righteousness” which may be seen as the basis for subsequent sanctification.

Imbedded Righteousness

For all you English majors out there, imbedded is a legitimate variant spelling of embedded.

To be imedded means “to fix into a surrounding mass; or to incorporate as an essential part or characteristic.” 

When something is imbedded, it cannot be removed. The characteristics of that which is imbedded are seen in the mass in which it is imbedded. For example, when red dye is imbedded into plastic, you have red plastic. When paint is imbedded into canvas, you have art. When righteousness is imbedded into a sinner, you have a person who begins to pursue what is right.

In essence, nobody has warrant to say they have been given the gift of imputed righteousness, and have in them the presence of imparted righteousness, until they life a life that shows evidence of imbedded righteousness. 

Nobody who knows Christ continues in their sin. We all sin. We who have received the righteousness of Christ have righteousness imbedded within us, and therefore, the characteristics of living right are always present – for we can’t help it.

It’s imbedded within our DNA as followers of Jesus.

June 21, 2016

Characterized by Courage, or Characterized by Fear?

Did your high school ever do a production of The Wizard of Oz? This one is from the UK.

Did your high school ever do a production of The Wizard of Oz? The one pictured here is from the UK.

Today, one of our past writers recommended a site, Love Everlasting Ministries, which in turn led us to the blog of Sarah Callen, Work in Progress, where we found today’s article.  Click the title below to read at source.

Courage, My Heart

The Wizard of Oz is a classic movie full of wonderful and memorable characters, one of my favorites is the Cowardly Lion. I love the irony of his character: a huge, ferocious looking lion who is scared of everything and severely lacking in courage. This lovable character spends his time with Dorothy in search of courage, understanding that his lack of courage is unbefitting.

I wonder how many of us are like the Cowardly Lion: we know we are to be courageous, but find ourselves crippled by fear. 

Lately, in my own quiet time with the Lord and in conversations with others, the word “courage” has consistently come up. Our lives, especially as Christians, require a great deal of courage. Trusting God, trusting that we’re hearing his voice, following God’s instructions, and living “on mission” all require courage. It takes courage to forgive, it takes courage to be kind, it takes courage to depend on God, it takes courage to love others. The life of a Christ follower requires courage at every turn. Following God is not for the faint of heart.

Courage n. mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty

One of my favorite Bible characters is Joshua. He was a man who had faith in God, learned to submit to his leaders and then led his people into the territory God had given them. His story is one full of faith and courage and he lived in a way that can inspire us today. In the book of Deuteronomy we learn that Joshua was the apprentice of Moses, he followed him around wherever he went and learned as much as he could from the leader of Israel. The next book, the book of Joshua, begins with the death of Moses and Joshua being appointed as the leader of the nation. Talk about pressure! I can only imagine the insecurity and fear that Joshua faced. The people rebelled and argued with Moses, a man who heard and spoke directly with God, if I were Joshua I would be completely doubting my ability to lead this unruly group. But God knew exactly what Joshua needed to hear to lead His people into the land that had been promised to them. Joshua 1:5-9 begins with God’s instructions to Joshua:

“…No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.

Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

In the span of four verses God commands Joshua to be strong and courageous three times… I think he may have been trying to make a point. Courage was necessary for Joshua and the people Israel, they could do nothing without courage. But I find the flow of this passage to be very interesting.

It takes courage to lead. 

The first “be strong and courageous” is directed specifically to Joshua, as Joshua would be unable to enter the promised land without it. During his time as the leader of the nation, Joshua showed immense faith and courage, resulting in the miraculous acts of God on behalf of his people. Joshua had the courage to listen to God, take him at his word and not budge, knowing that whatever God said would indeed come to pass. It takes immense courage to see the vision of God and not be dissuaded by circumstance or naysayers.

It takes courage to obey. 

Has God ever instructed you to do something that just scared you? Have you ever read a verse and thought to yourself, “I just don’t know if I can do that…”? I know I have. Obedience to God takes a great deal of courage. Read through the book of Joshua and witness the seemingly crazy instructions that God gave Joshua who in turn had to tell the people. It took courage to march around the city of Jericho for seven days instead of coming up with a plan of attack. It took courage to devote the entire city to God instead of keeping everything for themselves. It took courage to go up against giants and armies when Israel was vastly outnumbered. But every act of courageous obedience resulted in overwhelming blessing.

It takes courage to go. 

“Go” is the most expensive word in the Bible. It can be easy sometimes to focus on the cost, instead of summoning the courage to “go”. Courage is required to spread the love of Jesus, whether that means going to your neighbor or another country. But, when we summon the courage to go, knowing that God is with us the entire time, I believe great things can happen. When fear-conquering courage fuels faith-filled actions this can lead to changed lives and communities.

In what areas of your life do you need an infusion of courage? How can that spark of courage in your life lead to the benefit of others? It’s my hope and prayer that we will all be strong and courageous as Joshua was so that we can lead, obey, and go as the Lord instructs.


To read another article by Sarah which was our introduction to her writing, scroll to her June 14th article at Love Everlasting Ministries.

 

April 15, 2016

The Valiant Woman of Proverbs 31

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:37 pm
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A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. …Strength and dignity are her clothing,and she laughs at the time to come.She opens her mouth with wisdom,and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household,and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her happy;her husband too, and he praises her…

Today we pay a return visit to the online resource, Theology of Work. Clicking the title below will take you today’s post, form which you can navigate your way to other sections.

The Valiant Woman (Proverbs 31:10-31)

A remarkable connection between the book of Proverbs and the world of work occurs at the end of the book. Lady Wisdom, who we meet at the beginning of the book (Prov. 1:20-33, 8:1-9:12), reappears in street clothes in the final 22 verses of the book (Prov.31:10-31) as a living, breathing woman, termed “the virtuous woman” (KJV). Some translators use “wife” instead of “woman,” probably because the woman’s husband and children are mentioned in the passage. (Both “wife” and “woman” are possible translations of the Hebrew ishshah.) Indeed, she finds fulfillment in her family and ensures that “her husband is known in the city gates, taking his seat among the elders of the land” (Prov. 31:23). But the text focuses on the woman’s work as an entrepreneur with a cottage industry and its servants/workers to manage (Prov. 31:15). Proverbs 31:10-31 does not merely apply to the workplace; it takes place in a workplace.

The book of Proverbs is summarized, then, in a poem praising a woman who is the wise manager of diverse enterprises ranging from weaving to wine making to trade in the market. Translators variously use the words “virtuous” (KJV), “capable” (NRSV), “excellent” (NASB), or “of noble character” (NIV) to describe this woman’s character in Prov. 31:10. But these terms fail to capture the element of strength or might present in the underlying Hebrew word (chayil). When applied to a man, this same term is translated “strength,” as in Prov. 31:3. In a great majority of its 246 appearances in the Old Testament, it applies to fighting men (e.g., David’s “mighty warriors,” 1 Chronicles 7:2). Translators tend to downplay the element of strength when the word is applied to a woman, as with Ruth, whom English translations describe as “noble” (NIV, TNIV), “virtuous” (NRSV, KJV) or “excellent” (NASB). But the word is the same, whether applied to men or women. In describing the woman of Proverbs 31:10-31, its meaning is best understood as strong or valiant, as further indicated by Prov. 31:17, “She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong.” Al Wolters argues on account of such martial language that the most appropriate translation is “Valiant Woman.” Accordingly, we will refer to the woman of Proverbs 31:10-31 as the “Valiant Woman,” which captures both the strength and the virtue carried by the Hebrew chayil.

The concluding passage in the book of Proverbs characterizes this woman of strength as a wise worker in five sets of practices in her workplace. The high importance of this section is signaled in two ways. First, it is in the form of an acrostic poem, meaning that its lines begin with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, in order, making it memorable. Second, it is placed as the climax and summary of the entire book. Accordingly, the five sets of practices we observe in the Valiant Woman will serve as a framework for exploring the entire book.

To some people in the ancient near east, and even to some now, portraying a woman as a model of wise entrepreneurship would be surprising. Despite the fact that God gave the gift of work to men and women equally (Genesis 1 and 2), women’s work has often been denigrated and treated with less dignity than men’s. Following the example of the book, we will refer to this wise worker as she, understanding that God’s wisdom is available equally to men and women. She functions in the book as an affirmation of the dignity of every person’s work.

As always in the book of Proverbs, the way of wisdom flows out of the fear of the Lord. After all the Valiant Woman’s abilities and virtues are described and honored, the source of her wisdom is revealed. “A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Prov. 31:30).


Bonus item: We’ve run this before on the other blog, but I wanted to return to a song about a modern day Proverbs 31 woman.

April 7, 2016

Ice Cube or Iceberg?

Today we return to the writing of Andy Elms from the UK ministry Great Big Life. What follows is from a series of emails to which I subscribe, I’ve condensed several days into one here.

Matthew 6:1-2 (NKJV)
Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
So what do I mean by “Are you an Iceberg or an Ice cube?” Both are made of the same basic material – frozen water – but they are two very different experiences. An ice cube floats on the water and if you hit it with something it moves; an iceberg has a tip that sticks out of the water with the majority or major part of it under the waves, unseen. The difference comes when something hits an iceberg – it does not move; in fact, as HMS Titanic found out, what hits it will sink.

icebergSo much of modern Christianity seems to be about what happens in the sight of others (especially worship leading and preaching). It seems that a lot of people want to just do Christianity that is with others and seen by others; everything about their Christian experience is ‘above the waves’. Yet I believe the Bible encourages us to build something stronger and deeper than this. Like the man who built his house upon the rock, we are to build a walk with God and an outworking of our Christianity that has great depth. By this I mean a whole lot happening under the waterline of our life, where man does not see but God does.

It’s when we take time to develop what we have with God ‘under the waves’ of what others can see or hear that we build a faith walk that is strong and unmovable, so when an enemy ship or random life attack comes against us we do not sink or float off, rather we cause that which came against us to sink while we remain strong and unshaken.

[The above text] touches this concept when it talks about how we are to give: it instructs us to have an ‘under the water, unseen by man’ reality to how we give. When we know in our hearts that man may not ever know what we have done and we may never get their applause, but God does see and know, we can know we will get His reward; and don’t tell me for a minute that His reward won’t be far superior than that which man gives.

Matthew 6:5-6 (NKJV)
And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

…God is interested in building the parts of you that are not seen by others, things like your character and integrity, because He knows as you daily grow in who you are, in the unseen, who you are ‘above the waves’ will naturally grow and strengthen too.

In the next part of Jesus’ teaching He looks at prayer, and the whole thought of ‘iceberg or ice cube’ continues to be very relevant. When it comes to prayer, is there a part of your prayer life that is never heard or witnessed by others, reserved just for the audience of One? With so much of today’s performance-driven Christianity we have become great at praying eloquent prayers when others are around, but God is interested in what is happening when it is just you and Him.

[The above text] instructs us concerning our personal prayer walk with God – that we are to all have a prayer place that we go to where no other person can hear what we are saying or see what we are doing. Like the ‘below the waters’ part of an iceberg, this place of personal prayer should be the largest part of what we have going on in the area of our prayer and communication with God. If it isn’t we can easily become ‘professional prayers’ who pray to be heard and given applause and appreciation by man. The problem is that those who pray to be heard by others have received all of the reward they are going to get. Those, however, who pray not to be heard by man are told that God Himself gives the reward for what they have done that no one else saw.

I hope this encourages you today to grow a prayer life ‘beneath the waves’ of what man observes, to have a secret place where it comes to communicating with God, to build a depth in prayer knowing that where there is depth “deep can call out to deep” (Psalm 47:2), and Father God wants to talk to you deeply.

Matthew 6:16-18 (NKJV)
Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

…Here Jesus uses the same principle but this time picks on the subject of fasting. He says when we fast, we are to do it in such a way as to not let others know. Don’t do it in an ‘above the waves’ fashion, rather do it in such a way that none watching you would even know.

I am sure like me you have met people who are fasting and they just can’t help themselves, they just have to let you know. They whisper quietly, “I am fasting, don’t tell anyone”, or they actually don’t need to say anything, the facial expressions say it all! The reality is, the minute they let you know they should probably give up because the power of fasting, according to today’s text, is in others not knowing. Don’t get me wrong, when others find out that’s fine; its when you do it for others to know you are doing it that you have problems, and all you are doing is just starving yourself.

Jesus teaches us to wash our face, put the make up on, put gel in our hair, and walk around in such a way that only God, who sees what happens under the waterline of your life, can see what you are doing and why you are doing it. When fasting is done to be seen by the audience of only One – like giving and prayer – He then takes the responsibility to reward you openly. The person who fasts to been seen by others better enjoy the applause they get, because that’s all they’re getting.

Let me challenge you to continue to grow the part of you that is ‘beneath the waterline of your life’, knowing that this is the part He rewards and this is the part that makes you strong and unsinkable. Let me say again, when shallow Christians who have no depth have a collision with life’s various problems and situations they simply float away. But people with depth don’t float away, they remain standing strong, weathering every storm that comes along. Grow and invest in the person you are beneath the waves!

March 17, 2016

The Bible on Envy, Jealousy, Coveting, Lack of Contentment

Today’s thoughts have two distinct origins.

First, this began with an article I wrote for Thinking Out Loud called A Different Response to Envy, which contained an article titled Turning Envy Upside Down. (Given the choice, choose the second link which has a graphic image and many comments.)

Second, a few years ago here, because it was St. Patrick’s Day, and because scripture verses here always appear in green (because the scriptures are the life of daily Bible study and devotion) we did an entire post in green. So when I found this list, I knew I had to run this on March 17th and tie in with the article on envy.

One last thing: The list is exhaustive, you need to click the title to see it all! (Each verse is also a link to BibleGateway.com)  All scriptures today are ESV, but the link will allow you to click through and see the verse in every English translation. You don’t have to read it all today, just focus on a few verses and let the text speak to you.

Envy And Jealousy

James 3:16 

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.

For you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; …

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

Of David. Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. …

But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.

“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. …

Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.

A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. …

Jacob lived in the land of his father’s sojournings, in the land of Canaan. These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him. Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. …

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. …

For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge.

 

March 8, 2016

A Personal Character Checklist

NLT I Cor 13:1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

Many of us had I Corinthians 13, also known as ‘the love chapter’ read at our weddings and at many weddings we’ve attended. I don’t think there’s anything specifically wrong with this, but it’s important to remember

  1. This is a general overview of expected Christian character that should be lived out every day of every year; it’s application should not be limited to weddings.
  2. Both in terms of doctrine and in terms of writing style, it’s got a lot in common with Paul’s list of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5: 22-23.
  3. Its own context is that the passage is sandwiched between two chapters on the exercise of spiritual gifts, chapter 12 and chapter 14.
  4. If you want to know what Paul has to say about marriage, Ephesians 5:22-33 is more direct.

That said, our pastor spoke from the love chapter last month as he was in the middle of a series on the Christian family, and Valentine’s Day fell on a Sunday. Each person in the church was asked to complete this self-evaluation checklist as to where they stand in relationship to the standards set by Paul in that chapter. Some of the statements are expressed positively — Love is patient — while others are expressed in the negative — Love does not seek its own way. So he put all the positives on one side and all the negatives on the other:

Love - I Corinthians 13 - Personal Character Checklist

Where would you stand on this? (Use the contact page to request a black and white copy you can reprint.)

From the very first line, I think many will be challenged. Twice this weekend I read of Christian leaders confessing they have a problem with temper, which shows a lack of patience, among other things…

Scripture is filled with checklists we can use in self-evaluation. One I’ve often turned to is Colossians 1:9-12 which coincidentally was read in the same church two weeks later in another context:

NLT 9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

Paul is praying this for the Colossian church, but we can see where we stand in relation to these indicators. In bullet point form, it’s a test of being filled in terms of

  • knowing God’s will
  • having spiritual wisdom
  • having spiritual understanding *
  • living a life worthy of the Lord
  • pleasing him in every way
  • bearing fruit **
  • growing in the knowledge of God
  • growing in the strength of spiritual power
  • having endurance
  • having patience
  • being thankful

*What do you think is the difference here between wisdom and understanding? In another study, we might break that down in various translations.

**Fruit can refer to the fruit of the spirit, but it can also refer to multiplication; leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Have you ever had the humble privilege of doing that?

As Paul describes what we call communion, he says in 1 Cor. 11:28 “But let a man examine himself” (KJV) “Examine your motives, test your heart” (Message) “Look into your own hearts.” (NCV) These times of self-evaluation are important. We can immerse ourselves in the study of doctrine, but fail to study how the doctrine is impacting ourselves.

 

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